Demand for Hard Seltzer Cools

A saturated market and early popularity inspired manufacturers to over produce.

July 27, 2021

Hard Seltzers in Cooler

ALEXANDRIA, Va.—Once the darling of the cold case, hard seltzer may be cooling, reports

Boston Beer "overestimated the growth of the hard seltzer category in the second quarter and the demand for" its hard seltzer offering, said Dave Burwick, president, Boston Beer, in a statement released with its second-quarter 2021 earnings. The company said it increased production to meet summer demand, which failed to materialize to the extent it predicted.

Hard seltzer has grown for large brewers as consumption of their iconic brews continues to slump. Nearly every major brewer, such as AB InBev, Heineken, Molson Coors and even Coca-Cola, have at least one hard seltzer on the shelf.

During Boston Beer's second-quarter earnings call, Burwick said there are too many lookalike brands in the hard seltzer category. "The problem is everything becomes the same ... And I think a lot of those brands will be gone," he said. (Read more from Boston Beer in “Beyond Beer” in the July issue of NACS Magazine.)

Jim Koch, Boston Beer founder and chairman, said the decline is due to slow growth in household penetration as the market matures and there is less new trial, a transition of volume from off-premise to on-premise, more hard seltzer choices and a challenging comparison period to last year.

Industry experts believed that the rapid growth in demand for hard seltzers would continue and there would be enough fans to absorb all the brands. But at some point, too much choice had the opposite effect and consumption slowed. Still, there were signs the market was bracing for a correction. According to data from NielsenIQ, hard seltzer sales were up more than 51% for the 52 weeks ended July 10, 2021, but the final 12 weeks of that period were disappointing with sales only up 7.8%.

Recently, Molson Coors announced it was ending production of Coors Seltzer to allow the company to focus on more popular hard seltzers, such as Topo Chico Hard Seltzer and nutrient-infused Vizzy.

Coca-Cola CEO James Quincey said the company, which partners with Molson Coors on Topo Chico Hard Seltzer, will assess the category before determining whether to expand its presence. "We want to learn and understand more before we decide anything," he said during the company's second-quarter earnings call.

To read more about the rush for hard seltzer this summer, read “Seltzer Surge” in NACS Magazine.